It seems to happen every year.

Winter doldrums have me itching for a change of scenery or, at the very least, a change of attitude. Perhaps a trip south to warmer climates – or, give me the full dose of winter, straight up, lots of snow, a ski trip with a warm lodge and a blazing fire to warm my toes while my hands embrace a nice cup of hot chocolate topped with gooey marshmallow. Or maybe just a mid-winter party is all I need. Whatever it is, I’m ready. This in-between stuff has got to go.

In New England, there’s something sacred in the changing of the seasons, as each one is distinctly different. The natural change of scenery offers us variety, bringing with it a different feel and attitude. Add some special holidays, and there’s something for everyone to move you through the year.

We are blessed, and what’s not to love? We enjoy a beautiful, open country – there is no part that is war torn. On the grand scale, our country is abundantly wealthy. Simple things like blue sky, safe water, rich soil, housing and social services may be something that we take for granted in our every day. Can we fully relate to hardship?

If you haven’t been there yourself, the answer quite likely is no. But that doesn’t mean that we cannot connect on some level. This year, it seems that Valentine’s Day has taken on a more global perspective. Last week, everywhere I turned I saw Valentine’s Day. This holiday has opened my eyes beyond the intimate and romantic level. Valentine’s Day is evolving to include more people – even people that you don’t even know personally.

I had the privilege last week to participate in the packing up and shipping Operation Cupid Valentines packages to our troops serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait. Five-hundred bags were decorated by middle school students, who had written Valentine heart notes of encouragement, appreciation and support to our troops. Rubbing elbows with boxes that filled my van from the passenger seat on back, I relied on the car mirrors to back up to the loading dock at the post office. As I looked in the mirror, I realized that the packages in my car, handled by many in town, would be landing on war-torn soil, and what a true Valentine gift these would be.

Meanwhile, closer to home, many stops were made around town to hang up Project GRACE dance posters – once called a Valentine’s Dance, the name changed to be more inclusive. You need not be romantically connected to celebrate a year of heart-felt love extended to those in need. Camp Ketcha will be the hot spot sure to lift those mid-winter doldrums as Wavelenth Band plays lively tunes inviting you to dance and socialize. Shed those winter clothes, dress light and come kick up your heels Feb. 10. Call 883-5111 for more information.

I caught wind of a warmer-climate, hands-on Valentine’s effort. HaveHeart, a travel company with a purpose, is the company that Cape Elizabeth residents Karen Fisher and Lisa Johnson started. In conjunction with nonprofit organizations in Central and South America, they offer “volunteer vacations” to individuals or groups who have a loving heart and a willing spirit. And they found a group!

On Feb. 14, 17 Cape Elizabeth High School students, one South Portland student and two faculty members will be heading to a ranch in Costa Rica. This infrequently visited area of Costa Rica is the last virgin rainforest of Puriscal County. The group of volunteers will serve as interns as they learn about responsible and sustainable living in the tropics.

Has winter got you down? Valentine’s Day may just be the impetus to do something different, either right here in town or in some far off place. And even better yet, your participation can make a difference in the quality of life for someone else. Happy Valentine’s Day!


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